This wasn’t always promised for Kanye West. Following a string of antisemitic remarks and controversy in 2022, plenty of brands and artists distanced themselves from the polarizing rap dignitary.
Yeezy laid low for much of the year and fled the States to discover a creative safe haven in Italy’s Tuscany hills for much of the summer with his wife Bianca Censori, where he linked up with Ty Dolla $ign and the idea of a joint album began to take form.
Diehard Ye fans may recall that West previously teased possibly doing a collab LP with Ty dating back to 2018.
A November trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai saw Ye and Ty Dolla $ign reconnect along with the release of their debut single “Vultures,” featuring Chicago natives Lil Durk and Bump J, which sent a flare into the sky signaling an album was on the horizon.
West and Ty returned stateside to preview an early edition of Vultures at Art Basel with a Miami listening party where the embattled Chicago mogul assembled the rap Avengers and reunited with Kid Cudi among the star-studded guest appearances. Even Ye’s daughter North West made a cameo and stars on the album.
Most people would call Vultures 1 a comeback album for Kanye — his first without the backing of Universal Music Group or Def Jam — but nearly all of his projects are fueled by some form of plight he’s fighting against. Just think back to 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy following the Taylor Swift-MTV VMAs fiasco a year prior.
But it wouldn’t be a proper Yeezy release without some chaos as fans remained in the dark wondering if the project would arrive after several delays and listening parties inside Chicago’s United Center and Long Island’s UBS Arena in the Big Apple.
However, Yeezy season persevered as the first volume of Vultures 1 finally began to hit streaming services early Saturday morning (Feb. 10), which also marks the 20th anniversary of Kanye’s The College Dropout debut album.
Find all 16 tracks from Vultures 1 ranked below.
“Beg Forgiveness” (feat. Chris Brown)
Chris Brown and Kanye West have made magic in the past but C-Breezy is deployed in an obscure way here while shaming a subject who is seeking forgiveness. With respect to the creative risk taken over hollow drums, “Beg Forgiveness” could’ve been kept in the files for another option they cooked up.
Kanye sheds his brief humble beginnings to reclaim “King” status. Even after all of the recent controversies as well as his own trials and tribulations, he’s standing tall letting everyone know he’s still atop the throne of rap, culture and influence. West scoffs at those who tried to knock him off his path and labeled him as “crazy, bi-polar, [or an] antisemite.” “I’m still the king,” he declares on the pugnacious album closer.
“Paperwork” (feat. Quavo)
Stacking cash is a popular theme throughout Vultures. Ye introduces grungy guitar synths and puts Quavo in foreign territory far away from the trap 808s the Migos turned to gold. Huncho does an admirable job outside of his comfort zone but why did tracks like “Paperwork” make the cut over early listening party favorites “Everybody,” “River” and “Time Moving Slow?”
Ty Dolla $ign shines on the capitalism-themed tune taking the reigns to steer the ship when Ye can creatively go off the rails for a bit. “I’m just here to get paid,” he croons for the catchy chorus that colors outside the hip-hop lines and dips more into a dance bop. Kanye turns the song upside-down and utilizes his baby voice which triggers fans’ PTSD from his Alex Jones InfoWars interview appearance in 2022.
A darker opening track that most expected to set the tone for what’s to come on Vultures. “Stars” serves as more of a palette cleanser while Dijon’s sampled angelic vocals with a faded backdrop give the project an early poignant moment. West and Ty Dolla $ign realize they’ve manifested their superstar aspirations and bask in some of their accomplishments.
“Keys to My Life”
Timbaland‘s thumping drums are a bit more stripped-down than the initial record teased at the Miami listening party. West bares his soul while possibly jabbing at Kim for letting another man in their house eat Papa John’s. “Ever since I lost my mom, you was like my foster mom,” West pleads. However, he’s ready to move on and give everything of himself to his new wife Bianca Censori, and grow their family. Even after having four children with Kardashian, bringing another child into the world is his “end goal.”
The steel drums and “Hoodrat” sirens make for a chaotic backdrop where Ye’s comfortable and made a living on 2013’s Yeezus. Amidst the madness, West and Ty pass the mic back-and-forth for a prolific chorus and showcase a testament to how far their chemistry has grown over the years.
Mike Tyson comes out of nowhere to West’s defense and is sampled to close out the track. Iron Mike delivers a haymaker right to the detractors. “They know he’s great… The s–t Kanye say is basically affirmations for success,” Tyson contends.
“Do It” (feat. Nipsey Hussle & YG)
The late great Nipsey Hussle pops up for a posthumous guest appearance. His hard-hitting vocals are pulled from an unreleased banger Ty Dolla $ign had with Nip and Cardi B prior to this passing.
“Do It” also marks YG’s first-ever appearance on a Kanye West album, but this makes sense with the Compton native reuniting with an old friend in Ty Dolla $ign as they invite Ye to the groovy West Coast vibes.
The eerie beat could be featured in a film about medieval times but Ye brings the 808s for a cinematic soundscape. West continues to stick with the theme of money and hoes while bragging about sending a random woman $100,000 via ApplePay. Ultimately, “Do It” lands in the middle class for the album.
“F-K Sumn” (feat. Playboi Carti & Travis Scott)
Kanye makes the tough decision to trade out Quavo for Travis Scott to reunite the “FE!N” brothers on the raunchy “F-k Sumn.” The quartet explores their sexual fantasies with Dolla $ign in pilot mode as he glides through the chorus but Carti’s repetitive coo brings the warped track’s momentum to a halt.
West resuscitates the vibes back to life through the bumping bass and passes the torch for La Flame to take centerstage for a slurry assist. The raunchy tune could use another tweak and tightening up to become a standout. Although, it’s funny to hear West poke at the controversy around him getting fellatio on a Venice gondola ride.
As a futurist and someone looking to smash the creative barriers around him, Kanye West rarely looks back in life. He candidly tunes out the noise around him for a pure stream of consciousness putting his last year in perspective. West feels the pressure of his attorney fees rising every time he speaks up and touches on fleeing to Japan with his wife to escape the walls caving in on him.
It’s also rare to purely hear him go deeper into the early days of his career when he recalls living in New Jersey trying to make it as a rapper and traveling to New York City to bring his dreams to life. “Every day in New Jersey/ On my way to New York,” he raps, which is fitting considering the parallels of Vultures arriving on the 20th anniversary of Ye’s The College Dropout debut in ’04.
“Vultures” (feat. Lil Durk & Bump J)
Kanye West came out of the gates gun blazing as he broke the ice meeting his critics head-on while enflaming his antisemitic controversy with a cheeky bar: “How I’m anti-semitic? Just f—-d a Jewish b—-h/ Just f—-d Scooter’s b—-h.” The ominous production is crisp while Ye heads back to his Chicago roots by recruiting Lil Durk and Bump J.
Remember when Kanye refused to be explicit and censored curses on his album? That era is clearly behind him and Yeezy makes it clear he’s with all the smoke throughout the lead Vultures single.
“Talking” (feat. North West)
It’s become a trend for rappers to have their kids on their albums. Drake had Adonis, Travis Scott enlisted Stormi and now Kanye has called on his eldest daughter North West, who has the best guest appearance of all the nepobabies. North cooked up an earworm of a chorus that will easily be stuck in listeners’ heads for the weeks to come: “It’s your bestie, Miss Miss Westie/ Don’t try to test me/ It’s gonna get messy.”
Ty Dolla $ign takes the baton and gets candid about how he’s raised his own college-aged daughter and hopes she’s properly prepared with the tools to take on the world. Only Ye can churn a positive fatherhood anthem into a rap hit.
“Good (Don’t Die)”
Oozing with 808s & Heartbreak vibes, Kanye transports OG fans to the desolate flows of “Street Lights” when he tried to find his footing following the loss of his mother and introduce a foreign sound to a resistant hip-hop genre. West brilliantly loops elements of Donna Summer into the pensive electro-pop record. Ty ups the standout’s potential by matching Ye’s introspective nature: “Got my heart on ice, don’t die.”
“Back to Me” (feat. Freddie Gibbs)
An early fan-favorite before the album even hit streaming. Ty Dolla $ign paces the track as the point guard before dishing off for an assist with his luscious vocals. Kanye provides a comedic relief element while speed-rapping “Beautiful, big t—y, butt-naked women don’t just fall out the sky ya know.” However, it’s Freddie Gibbs who steals the show and it feels like he replaced Pusha T‘s role as Ye’s the lyrical side-kick. “Yeezy, where we at? Florence and Milan/ Just turned my bird to my ex like she was Elon,” Gibbs raps.
No matter what state of mind he’s in, Kanye West is always going to deliver when it comes to the production side as one of rap’s sonic pioneers. He crafts another opulent beat and gets high on his own supply with one of his best pockets lyrically from Vulture’s entirety. “Who’s not entertained by my pain/ Who ain’t cash a check off my name?” he asks. West points the finger at the world that’s gone mad and jokes that former fashion partner Balenciaga has R. Kelly in a new ad.
“Carnival” (feat. Rich The Kid & Playboi Carti)
“Carnival” is the perfect example of why people put up with all of the controversies, album delays and madness that come with being a Ye fan because nobody in rap creates generational moments like this.
Rich The Kid making a memorable guest appearance on Vultures is not a sentence many anticipated typing out, but in typical Kanye fashion, he has a propensity to bring the best out of his collaborators.
Ty Dolla and Ye deliver some of their best bars on the album over the chanting production. West trolls cancel culture in the midst of his fiery rhymes: “Now I’m Ye Kelly b—h, now I’m Bill Cosby b—h, now I’m Puff Daddy rich, that’s MeToo me rich.” Somehow, Ye’s epic production even inspired Playboi Carti to deliver his most words per minute in years with a coherent assist.
After getting water splashed on the track by Ozzy Osbourne over the use of a live “War Pigs” sample, West flips the bird to Ozzy and finds a new way to bring the grunginess to “Carnival” by incorporating My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘s “Hell of a Life” instead which interpolates “Iron Man.”